Indispensable Tools

We recently had a conversation about the tools that we can’t possibly do without. As always, the comments were wide-ranging and interesting:

Kay Laboda said she can’t live without a seam ripper. “I use it for lots of tasks. Like when I need to hold down the fabric in front of the foot on the machine, or pulling the thread through from the back of the quilt, or when I thread the needle and have to pull the loop, and dozens of other small things. It’s truly my best friend. That’s why I have a dozen of them.”

“Misty Fuse is my favorite tool,” says Vivian Helena Aumond-Capone. “I love the Goddess Sheets because I can be sure my iron will remain clean. And I couldn’t be without Quilting Arts Magazine and all the gals connected with it.”

From Diana Mains Welte, “I cannot live without my ruler. It is a 6”x13” Easy Rule by Sharon Hulton from EZ Quilting. I have had it forEVER. I rely upon it to accurately cut a 4 x 6 postcard — I would be lost without it.”

“I’m going to admit that I can’t manage without my Squeezers!” says Myfanwy Hart. “Scissors that you squeeze closed, fit perfectly in the hand and have curved cutting edges to fit under the sewing machine needle for trimming threads as close as you can go!”



“My essential tool is an extension table.” says Lauren. “I have one for each of my sewing machines. My favorite is the Sew Steady.  I use it on my sewing machine even when making postcards. The only time I take it off is for piecing 1/4-inch seams.”

Sara Kelly chimed in, “My favorite tools are my hands. They are the happiest part of me most days if I’ve been able to sew, knit, etc., especially when arthritis reminds me to treasure their flexibility each day I have it.”

Maureen Curlewis admits that she would be LOST without her collection of hand sewing/embroidery needles. “And,” she adds, “at last we have wet weather in south-east Queensland, making conditions perfect for stitching!”

“I cannot imagine life without my computer,” says Franki Kohler. “I’ve made so many wonderful connections with other artists around the world. It also connects me with incredible teachers and more inspiration than I could use in a lifetime!”

What is your favorite tool?

P.S. None of the above comments are paid endorsements of products.


Six giraffe-loving members have created a delightful herd of the long-necked wonders! Click on an image for a larger view.

To see more postcard art, check out the individual galleries. Just hover your cursor over the Gallery tab, then select an artist’s name from the list. Enjoy!

White on White

One of the themes that eleven of our group is working on is White on White. It’s so fun to see the varied interpretations of this idea. Here’s a peek at what has been created and sent off in the mail so far.

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Start the New Year by Freeing Yourself of UFO Guilt

by Colette Herrin

A conversation with my friend Jane about why we were stuck in neutral when it came to our creative process made us realize that we both had incredible guilt about the UFOs in our studios.  Both of us experienced a heavy feeling whenever we walked into our studios.  It was a feeling of things being just barely under control.  I had the feeling that any minute my studio might explode and I would be found days later in the middle of it all.  We knew we had to unload this burden in order to become productive again.

First step: We had to find out what we were dealing with.  Jane cleaned out her studio and found over 100 UFOs; I counted 72 in my studio! No wonder we felt stuck.  Jane went to work and devised this wonderful system.

The system uses two sets of numbers to evaluate each project. Adding the 2 numbers together will provide the final number. It works like this:

The first set of numbers represents the amount of time a project will take to finish.

1 = <2 hrs (less than 2 hrs)
2 = ½ day
3 = 1 day
4 = <week (less than a week)
5 = week or more

The second set of numbers represents the level of need or importance you place on the project:

10 = need immediately
20 = need soon
30 = need sometime
40 = want to do it
50 = can let go of this, but not right now

One of my projects is a green silk purse. I estimate that it will take me two hours to finish this purse and I really need it now.  So the final number assigned to this UFO is 12:  2 for time it will take to finish + 10 for the level of need.

NOTE:  If there is no date-sensitive need (birthday or other special occasion), then the project is a 40 or a 50.

Now to get organized. Place each UFO in a clear bag that has a tag or label inside (I use 3” sticky notes).  I number each project by the year — 1401, 1402, 1403, etc  — and the final number from the above-explained system.  This number is circled. As the bags are sealed closed, the project is added to a master list. I have this list on a clipboard in my studio so I can easily access it. My list of projects looks like this:

Project # Description Time to Complete Level of Need Final tag number Date Completed
1401 Green Silk Purse 2 10 12
1402 Angel Placemats 3 50 53

Store projects by Level of Need Number.  I have plastic boxes marked “10 Projects”, “20 Projects”, and so on.

Now you are ready to put the system to work.  When you have some time before an appointment for instance, look through your list and find a project by number that will fit the time frame you happen to have available.  Let’s say I have 3.5 hours in the morning before I have to be somewhere.  I can do project #1401 – Green Silk Purse because I rated it as taking me 2-3 hours to finish.  The fact that I need it immediately also comes into play.  I can start this project and not worry about being able to stop in time to leave for my appointment.  I just set the timer and get to work.

When I am finished with a project I line through it on my list and write the date I completed it.  Once you finish your first project under this system  -  OH THE JOY!!!  You get excited and set goals for the week for how many projects you will complete.  I have been doing this since March of 2005 and have completed over 300 projects.  Everything from sewing on a button to making a quilt count.   Things like cleaning the refrigerator have been known to show up on my list also.

Note: As you are going through your UFOs and discover a project that you doubt you will ever finish disassemble the package, put the fabric in your stash and file instructions or patterns. Put a line through the project on the master list and “LET GO” in the date completed column. Just for fun, put a tick mark at the top of the list to indicate those projects that you let go of.  You will find that this system helps keep down the clutter in your studio, gives you a real sense of control and incredible satisfaction.

That’s the system! You can work with it easily at this point or you can take the system one step further. Here’s what I do:

Each project has its own index card.  At the top of the card in the left hand corner is the number of the project.  In the right hand corner at the top are the three numbers assigned during the “grading process” followed by the title of the project.  My index card would look like this:

#1401                                                                  2         10        12
                               Green Silk Purse

I can fan through my cards very quickly and find all of the “2s” for instance and work on them during my three-hour mornings.  Or I can fan through and look for “10s” so I can get the most urgent projects completed first.

After a project is completed, I update the master list then I record the completion date on the index card.  The index card goes into my file box behind the tab labeled “DONE”.  It is very encouraging to watch that “DONE” portion of the file grow as time goes by.

I take a picture of each completed project and file it electronically in “Things I Have Made”. This is an easy way to document all my projects and another source of satisfaction.

The burden is lifted, my spirit feels free and I am at peace to sit and sew with a real sense of excitement and expectation of good things to come. You can achieve this sense of well-being too. It really works. So, get busy and free yourself of UFO GUILT!

Special thanks to Jane Koura for her great idea and for sharing it with me.

Happy New Year

Beginning in 2011 and culminating in 2013, we took up the challenge of using the alphabet — plus the Question Mark and Ampersand — as inspiration for creating fabric postcards. We had so many members interested in this challenge that we had several groups of traders creating simultaneously. Here is what one group created. Click on an image for a closer view.

May the future bring you more creativity that you hoped for! Happy New Year!

Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Halloween

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See more work from all the artists on individual Gallery pages.

Recent Acquisitions from the TCQC

deVos, Not Even SolomonA Love Affair with Quilts

Recent Acquisitions from the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection

November 1 – January 19, 2014

Del Thomas personifies the kind of art collector that artists love. She adds quilts to the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection for a variety of reasons, but mostly because she develops a little love affair with each new piece. She wants to know everything about the work, what inspired it, what techniques were used, and how the fabric choices were made. She wants to meet the artist, learn about other quilts the artist has made, know what excites the artist about her work and propels her to design quilts. Del is the ideal collector. Meet her at the opening reception for Recent Acquisitions from the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection on November 9th from 5-7 p.m. Admission is $5, and free for members of Visions Art Museum: Contemporary Quilts + Textiles.

As a quilt-maker herself, Del Thomas didn’t decide to be a quilt collector. She fell in love. In 1985 Del bought a quilt at a guild auction because it was love at first sight. A year or so later, she fell in love again, and soon she was falling in love with more and more quilts until she realized this must be what it means to have a collection. The Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection was born.

Today, the collection has 250 quilts. In the beginning, Del was seduced by traditional quilts, but over the years quilters began experimenting and Del became smitten with art quilts. The Collection is nearly all art quilts.

The Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection is really several collections. It comprises the largest single collection of Ruth McDowell’s quilts. The Collection has over 60 twelve-inch square quilts. There is a strong selection of landscape motifs in the Collection especially quilts with trees and birds.

Recent Acquisitions from the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection features 29 quilts by 22 artists including eight quilts by Ruth McDowell. Several of the quilts have won awards at recent quilt shows and the newest quilts to the Collection will be on view for the first time.

Join Del Thomas on December 9th at 2:00 p.m. when she gives a tour of the exhibition and talks about each quilt and how the romance began quilt by quilt. Del generously shares information about her collecting experience and will be available after the talk for questions.

Visions Art Museum: Contemporary Quilts + Textiles is located at 2825 Dewey Road in Liberty Station, San Diego, California. Museum hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5. Children age 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Visions Art Museum members enjoy year-round complimentary admission.

Solo Exhibit for Suzanna Bond

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Royal RobeFiber art and oil paintings of Suzanna Bond will be featured at

Libreria Martinez de Chapman University

216 North Broadway

Santa Ana, CA 92701

November 2 – 23, 2013

Artist Talk Saturday, November 2, 6 – 9 p.m.

Seating limited: RSVP (714)973-7900 or

Putting Pieces Together“Relationships draw us to symbols that express a heart language.” says Suzanna. “Often these images evoke our longing for understanding of the world around us, whether remote or personal Common textiles used as medium can evoke memories of our earliest experiences, often unconsciously. We incite our own healing process as we connect to modern icons of portraiture.”

Suzanna is a native Californian who studied commercial art at The Burnley School in Seattle, WA. Recent studies have included textile arts and portrait painting with Kirk Miller.

Waiting for School